Ron Block has been a fixture in bluegrass music for a good while. From his work with the Weary Hearts to his current gig with Alison Krauss, Ron has inspired banjo and guitar players alike, and probably some songwriters as well.
A while back we mentioned that Ron was working on a new CD. I had a chance to chat with Ron via email recently about the recording. The new solo CD of original tunes is to be titled Doorway. The album features performances by all of Ron’s AKUS band members as well as many special guests.
The band is fueled mainly by my fellow bandmates in Alison Krauss and Union Station (Dan Tyminski, Barry Bales, Jerry Douglas), along with former Union Stationer Adam Steffey on mandolin (currently with Mountain Heart), along with Alison Krauss on viola and harmony vocals. Other musicians include Viktor Krauss on bass and Wurlitzer (he’s played bass for Lyle Lovett and Bill Frisell, among many others), Shannon Forrest (great and prolific Nashville drummer) on two tracks, Andy Hubbard (drummer with Little Big Town, Fernando Ortega) on a few, and the fiddle giant Stuart Duncan. Harmony vocals are provided by Sidney and Suzanne Cox, Homer, Lori, and Lisa of the Forbes Family, Alison Krauss, and of course Dan Tyminski.
That sounds like a great line up, but I noticed a couple of drummers listed, so I asked Ron about it. He tells me that the CD is not entirely bluegrass in nature, but spans genres from traditional bluegrass to acoustic rock sounds, and even includes some use of his ’63 Telecaster through a ’69 Marshall Amp with a ’60s Vox wah. Comparing Doorway with his last solo project Ron had this to say.
It’s much more dynamic than Faraway Land in terms of my singing (higher keys on some songs), band intensity, and lyrics.
I asked Ron about the bluegrass content of the recording, particularly asking if there was any straight up, hard driving bluegrass on the CD.
The two bluegrass gospel originals are Be Assured and Along the Way. Be Assured has Dan Tyminski on guitar, Barry Bales on bass, Adam Steffey on mandolin, me on banjo, and Stuart Duncan on fiddle. I sing lead, Dan sings tenor, and Homer Forbes sings baritone. Along the Way is the same band, but I sing the high lead, Dan sings baritone, Sidney Cox on low tenor, and Homer Forbes does the bass vocal. They are both medium tempo straight ahead bluegrass gospel.
What a band! I can’t wait to hear those cuts. Ron said he thinks bluegrass fans will still appreciate the whole CD if they keep an open mind while listening.
I may do a more bluegrassy album in the future, but this one is all over the map musically. It’s still very acoustic, though there are several songs with drums and electric guitar solos. Open minded bluegrass fans will like a lot of the record, but those who think traditional bluegrass is the only music worth listening to will probably like just the two songs.
Ron commented on his website about the lyrics of the songs he’s written for this project.
The lyrics are my usual blend of Christianity and life experience; anyone who is familiar with my original songs from the AKUS records (A Living Prayer, There Is A Reason, In The Palm of Your Hand, Jesus Help Me To Stand) and my last cd Faraway Land will know the direction the lyrics take…but with life experience, lyrics get deeper, better, and more meaningful.
Gary Paczosa mixed the record and it’s being mastered even now. It should be out sometime this spring. We’ll keep you updated when Doorway is released.